Avoiding Ethical Dilemmas

Wouldn’t it be great if you never got yourself in another ethical quandary? These tips should help you reduce the number of dilemmas you find yourself in.

Make sure ethical expectations are clear.

Discuss ethical dilemmas with your supervisor before they occur. Have a discussion of hypothetical situations, including:

  • What do I do if I find out confidential information that could affect you, but that is supposed to remain hidden from you?
  • What if you ask me to sign your name to some documents, and I sign documents that I wasn’t supposed to?
  • What if your supervisor asked you to perform some financial transactions for you?

You should also make sure your values are clear to your supervisor. If you think lying is always wrong, say so. Setting boundaries up front helps to ensure you stay within your ethical comfort zone.

Don’t just say yes.

Avoid the knee-jerk reaction to say yes when your supervisor asks you to do something. Consider the request (even if it’s just for a few seconds) before you commit to an action. If you need more time or information before making a decision, say so.

Learn to say no.

If someone asks you to do something that you think is (or could become) something unethical, say no. A good way to decline without lying is to say, “I’m not comfortable doing that,” or, “I’m not comfortable with that approach.”

Don’t be the frog.

If you put a frog in boiling water, he will jump out. But, if you put a frog in cold water and slowly heat up the water, he will boil to death. Don’t be the frog. Keep evaluating situations to make sure you haven’t gotten yourself into hot water unintentionally. And if things get uncomfortable, make sure you face the dilemma rather than burying your head in the sand.

Don’t be nosy.

Many ethical dilemmas result from finding out information that we’re not supposed to know. If you poke around and hunt for information, you’ll probably find it—and find yourself in an ethical quandary.

Lead by example.

Ethics filters from the top of the company all the way down to the bottom. If the CEO is seen as a reputable, honest, stand-by-their-word sort of person, the rest of the employees will adopt that attitude as well. It is much easier to make ethical decisions when it’s the norm of the company.

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Business Ethics For The Office?